Friday, March 31, 2006

Going Once... Going Twice....

What's a World Series championship ring worth to you?

Deadspin reports finding John Wetteland's 1996 Yankees championship ring up for bid on ebay (although I don't see Wetteland or the ring's original owner identified on the auction page itself).

EDIT: "Wetteland" is engraved on the side of the ring.

The starting bid is $2,000.

Bartlett to AAA

The Twins announced this evening that Jason Bartlett has been optioned to AAA.

Reflexively, when I first heard the news, I felt like screaming until my head spun. Why? What does the poor kid have to do to convince Ron Gardenhire that he's better than Juan Castro?

However, a few moments later I found this note in a report at

Jason Bartlett will likely start the year on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained left hamstring. His status could very well depend on how well Castro is playing at the shortstop spot. If Castro plays well enough to keep the starting role, Bartlett could wind up back in Triple-A Rochester at the end of his disabled stint since he plays only the shortstop position.

So it seems that maybe Bartlett will go to Rochester to nurse a tender hamstring. I hope that's the explanation, and we'll be seeing Bartlett in the Twins starting lineup as soon as he's feeling well enough to play every day. Either that, or we can hope this is just Terry Ryan's idea of an April Fool's joke.

If there is any other reason behind the move... well, let's give Gardy the benefit of the doubt for once and not dwell on that possibility. It would be a shame to let such ugly speculation spoil a beautiful Spring weekend that brings us the opening of the baseball season.

Happy thoughts!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spare the Rod, Already

If you've been reading the papers or other blogs this week, you've seen how Ron Gardenhire continues to feed the press with discouraging remarks about SS Jason Bartlett, while talking up utility scrubs Juan Castro or Nick Punto like they're really viable candidates to play every day for a contending team starved for offense. Gardy does this even while Bartlett is hitting .387 (12-for-31) in camp. OK, 10 of those 12 hits are singles and the other two are doubles. Still, you'd think a boss might want to be encouraging a kid who is hitting .387--even if he knows that "spring training stats are meaningless."

As evidence that performance in camp doesn't necessarily correspond to the praise or criticism the Twins management doles out to its young charges, consider this item on Jason Kubel from Baseball America:

The Twins have been encouraged by outfielder Jason Kubel's big league camp. Kubel, who had reconstructive knee surgery after a collision with Tigers infielder Ryan Rabun during the Arizona Fall League two years ago, fought hard for a major league job this spring but is more likely to start the year at Triple-A Rochester. "He's made a lot of strides; really made up for a lot of lost time," [Twins minor league director of operations] Jim Rantz said. "We're certainly going to be cautious with Jason, but at this point he's still across the street (at big league camp)."

Kubel, who is being talked up as a possible starting RF to begin the season, particularly if Michael Cuddyer is on the Disabled List, is hitting .211 (8-for-38) with a .263 SLG in camp. Now, I don't mean to say that Gardy should start spreading pessimism about Kubel's future just because he's not hitting this spring. Kubel may need all the encouragement he can get right now, and maybe it'll goose Cuddyer and Stewart to hear the bosses talking up the kid who's coming up behind them too. But how do they justify the kid gloves treatment in this case, while at the same time the manager constantly gives the needle to a young Shortstop who not only is having a decent spring but is clearly the club's best available option at his position?

I don't care much whether he's had any mental lapses in the field this month. In 68 games at SS last season, Bartlett had a .979 Fielding Pct. (where the adjusted average was .972) and a 4.74 Range Factor (where the adjusted average was 4.17). He can field his position, and he's a better bat with greater potential than the utility hacks posing as his competition for the starting job. Let him know you're behind him, Mr. Manager, quit messing with his head, and let the kid play.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shaking Off This Winter of Our Discontent

From the Strib:

The Twins could buy out third baseman Tony Batista's contract for $312,500 next Tuesday. It won't happen. "Batista's doing fine," Terry Ryan said. "There will be some days where it doesn't look so good, but there also will be days like Saturday, when he makes an outstanding play and hits a home run."

It's quotes like this which make it hard to get revved up about the Twins, even as we get within a couple weeks of Opening Day. Just when the fantastic World Baseball Classic had me hyped about baseball again, I have to read a dispiriting quote like that.

Can anyone explain how the man in charge of the Minnesota Twins, a professional baseball franchise, actually thinks he can get a fresh bead on Tony Batista by watching him play practice games for a few weeks?

It's not as if Batista lacks a track record. We know he hit .263/.294/.463 in 591 PA's with the Hawks in Japan last year, .241/.272/.455 with the Expos in 2004, and .244/.309/.457 with the Orioles the year before that. We're talking about data covering 1911 plate appearances. That's 218 PA's more than Terry Ryan gave David Ortiz before cutting bait on him. Let that sink in.

We know what Tony Batista is capable of doing anymore. We don't need to watch him work out in Florida to know that he's going to have a lot of "days where it doesn't look so good," periodically interrupted by a home run. Who does the GM think he's kidding?

Is he kidding himself?

There are things I look forward to seeing from the Twins this season, particularly the progress of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Bartlett. I hope to see Michael Cuddyer stick in the regular lineup and finally make good on his potential. The promise of Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, and Jason Kubel still piques my interest. Of course, there is still Johan Santana and Joe Nathan, Prez and VP, "Starting and Closing for America." Maybe Torii Hunter will feel inspired by all the young talent pushing him in his contract year, too.

There are players who should be fun to watch this year. But there are also problems with the lineup, the worst in the AL last year, which the GM failed to address, problems not likely to be solved by trading for a speedy singles hitter who had leg injuries last season (and is again already this spring), signing a washed-up out machine to play 3rd base and an injury-prone DH, and just hoping that everyone who disappointed in 2005 will happen to play better in 2006.

When a GM gives a non-guaranteed contract to a player who just washed out of the Japanese leagues and yet promises him a starting 3B job--not only that, but Ryan indicated more than once to the press that he promised Batista a starting job without any serious competition for it in camp--then it's hard not to get the impression that the club is stumbling in the dark while the man at the helm has no idea of where to go from here.

I wish I could say I expected the Twins to make another run at a division title and October baseball this year, but a repeat of last year's results seems more likely. Hopes of anything better are riding on nothing but a wing and a prayer.

Now that I've got that off my chest, maybe I can get past it and try to focus on the small pleasures we may have in store for us. We'll see what I can do to catch some sunshine and Spring Fever by next time....

Friday, March 10, 2006

Yanqui Go Home

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Friday, March 03, 2006


The blog has been dormant for most of the offseason; but, now that spring training has started, I might get back to writing about the Twins this weekend.

In the meantime, enjoy the following music videos, a couple of things besides baseball that make life beautiful.

Miles and Coltrane

Elis Regina